2015 Jacob Perlow Series Events
LIFE IN A JAR: The Irena Sendler Project
Two performances of the play:
Friday, March 27 at 3 p.m.
Saturday, March 28 at 7 p.m.
Free and open to the public—reservations highly recommended
Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world."Talmud
Irena Sendler, a Polish Catholic social worker, assisted in hiding more than 2,000 Jewish children who had been living in the Warsaw Ghetto during World War II. Although Irena Sendler had been recognized by Yad Vashem in 1965, most people had not heard of her. In 1999, three high school students in rural Kansas took on the task of researching Sendler's life as a National History Day project. Motivated by their teacher and their classroom motto "he who changes one person, changes the world entire," the students went on to write a performance portraying the life of Sendler, which they titled Life in a Jar. This is a reference to the jars that were buried, and contained the true identities of the Jewish children, in hopes that they could be reunited with family after the war. Much of the information about Sendler and the others who helped to bring these children to safety was hidden from the public record during the Communist rule following WWII. In researching firsthand accounts, the students learned that Sendler was still alive and in 2001 they were able to visit with her in Warsaw before her death in 2008. They have also returned to Europe to meet some of the children who had been saved and to present Life in a Jar in Poland.
In the years since writing the play, the students have performed hundreds of times throughout North America and Europe. While the play dramatizes Jewish life in the Warsaw Ghetto during the war, it relays, as importantly, the heroic story of the "righteous gentiles" who put their lives and that of their families at grave risk to save others by forging documents and hiding and placing Jewish children in convents and Polish homes.
The impact of this project are many, including the book Life in a Jar (Jack Mayer), a DVD with classroom study guide, a collection of Sendler's letters that has been used by universities, historical societies and Foundations for the Righteous, the nomination of Sendler for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 and the development of the Irena Sendler/Life in a Jar Foundation.
"The play is more than just a holocaust story. It is also the tale of these young students from Kansas, growing up in a small town which had no Jewish students in the school district, on their journey to promote the ideals of respect and understanding for all people and the importance that one person can have to make the world a better place, personifying the Jewish theme of Tikkun Olam," says Lollie Abramson, coordinator of Jewish Student Life and Interfaith Programming at Skidmore College.
The event is made possible by generous grants from the Jacob Perlow Event Fund, which is committed to furthering Jewish education, and the Jewish Federation of Northeast New York, supporting Jewish community programming. The program is coming to Saratoga Springs as a collaborative effort between the Skidmore College Office for Jewish Student Life, Skidmore College Office of the Dean of Special Programs, Skidmore Honors Forum, Skidmore Hillel and Congregation Shaara T'fille and Temple Sinai through the Saratoga Jewish Community Arts Series.
The play is moderated by Norman Conard, the teacher who gave the initial classroom assignment, and a cast of five students from the Irena Sendler Project. Conard and the students will be available for a question-and-answer session after the performance. Jack Mayer, author of the book Life in a Jar, will attend performances and participate in the question-and-answer session as well. The complete program will be approximately two hours. A dessert reception will follow.
If you come:
There is no charge for the program; however, there will be a jar for donations. All proceeds will go to the Life in a Jar Foundation to further Holocaust education and the Children of the Holocaust Association in Poland. Donations may also be made by credit card to www.irenasendler.org or by check to Life in a Jar Foundation, 4 South Main, Fort Scott, KS 66701.
Performances are at the Filene Hall on the Skidmore College campus on Friday March 27 at 3 p.m. and Saturday March 28 at 7 p.m. Seating is limited to 210 people. Tickets are available by calling Lollie Abramson at 518-580-5679 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Seats for confirmed ticketholders will be held until 10 minutes before show time, after which reserved seats will be released to those without reservations.
About the Jacob Perlow Series: A generous grant from the estate of Jacob Perlow—an immigrant to the United States in the 1920s, a successful businessman deeply interested in religion and philosophy and a man who was committed to furthering Jewish education—supports annual lectures and presentations to the College and Capital District community on issues broadly related to Jews and Judaism.